1981 Hunger Strike Anniversary Remembered

The below text is the oration delivered by Sinn Féin Poblachtach Ard Cisteoir and Ard Chomhairle member Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, Átha Cliath at the 37th Anniversary Hunger Strike commemoration and parade in Bundoran, Co. Donegal at the weekend.

Republican Sinn Féin commends the BUNDORAN/BALLYSHANNON 1981 HUNGER STRIKE COMMEMORATION COMMITTEE for their efforts in organizing this important event every year.  To the families of our martyrs in attendance, the many bands who played on the day and to the republican people who traveled from all over Ireland to partake, well done to all.

A full report will be in the October issue of SAOIRSE: The Voice of the Republican Movement.  Videos of the other main speakers, Maura Harrington, Mayo and Clr Tómas Ó Curraoin, Galway can be seen @RepublicanSF


They have chosen death, for there is an old custom, that if a man be wronged or perceive to have been wronged, and he starve himself at the threshold of he who had wronged him, the people for all time to come would raise a great protest against that threshold even though it be the Kings” 

That a chairde is a quote by W.B. Yeats, and it puts into words more succinctly than I ever could the reasoning for the Hunger Strikes here in Ireland. We as Republicans stand here to give truth to those words. We will stand at the threshold of Westminster, of Leinster House and of Stormont and proclaim that each of these places has wronged the people of Ireland.

The men who died from Thomás Aghas in 1917 to Mickey Devine in 1981used the only weapon they had in their fight for the sovereignty and unity of Ireland, their own bodies. They made the ultimate sacrifice in the war against British interference in Irish affairs.

These men were not alone in this battle, many others, men and women, undertook hunger strikes over the years, some of those men and women had their health broken and lives shortened due to their participation in these hunger strikes, they also had family who stood staunchly with them. Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters gave the hunger strikers the willpower to stay the course. As Mary Ward, whose husband died prematurely from the after effects of his participation in 4 hunger strikes said “To face death in the heat of battle surrounded by one’s comrades is a heroic thing; but to face death alone in a prison cell, surrounded only by one’s gaolers and tormentors, takes a supreme courage,”

The hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981 were started because the POWs in Long Kesh refused to be treated as criminals, they rightly demanded to be treated as political prisoners. Ultimately ten men died in 1981 and a whole generation of Irish men and women were to be politicised before the demands were conceded. Sadly, when the Provisionals surrendered and got their own prisoners released, they signed away that very same Political Status. Our POWs were forced into a criminal system where they suffered attacks at the hands of loyalist and criminal prisoners alike. They were under threat on a daily basis and had to start afresh in the self-same struggle for political status. The struggle within the prison is something all Republicans should unite on irrespective of whether we have friends or comrades incarcerated. As Martin Luther King said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. It is clear that that Irish Republicans cannot get justice within the judicial systems of both states. Special laws, special non-jury courts and special sentencing for Republicans is an everyday occurrence.

Last month in the Twenty-Six county courts several men and one woman were found guilty of membership of the IRA, the main “evidence” against them was what the state calls belief evidence, in other words a senior member of the police need just say he believes someone is a member and it is taken as enough for conviction.

I take this opportunity to send greetings to my friend Jonathan Hawthorn who was one of those convicted on this belief evidence, Jonathan was an extremely active member of the anti-water-tax protest in Dublin and had been threatened by the police for months prior to his arrest I also send solidarity greetings to Kevin Hannaway who was similarly convicted on belief evidence.  At 70 years of age, and as one of those known as The Hooded Men who were tortured by the british state in 1971, an almost 4 year sentence on the word of a police force that has been shown to manufacture evidence on a wholesale basis is in itself criminal. The growing campaign to abolish the SCC must be supported by all Republicans.

The Six County system is no better, with similar laws, similar courts and probably a worse prison regime. Through this system two men from Craigavon went and they found no justice. Police who lost evidence, intimidated and arrested a witness for the defence, they paid witness for the prosecution…the list goes on. Suffice to say another miscarriage of justice has occurred and once again the British state refused to acknowledge it.  Like the Birmingham Six and Guildford four, they would rather see young men’s lives wasted away behind bars than for it to be seen that there is no justice for many Irish in the British judicial system.

Another relic of injustice within the judicial system is internment, while many will say it is no longer in use, the cases of Tony Taylor, Gabriel Mackle, Marion Price and Martin Corry are but  few of those who have been interned over the past few years. Tony Taylor, a community activist and long-term Republican has been interned since March 2016 on the orders of the then secretary of state without reason or justification, it is clear that this man is languishing in jail as an example to others to refrain from involvement in community or Republican activity.

Last year Gabrial Mackle stood here and said a few words as a recently released Republican POW, within a few weeks he was dragged from his house and interned. Luckily for him (if I can use that phrase that) he was released after a few months. In his case it was acknowledged that whatever secret evidence that was shown to the court did not justify his internment, the inherent unreliability of secret evidence and unchallenged nature of such evidence was in this case not accepted.  I welcome Gabriel home again and only wish a little more solidarity was shown to him during his term of internment.

The issue of political extradition is not part of history either, Liam Campbell and his family are still facing the threat of him being extradited to Lithuania in a case involving MI5 and an allegation of entrapment and stretches back 10 years. Liam has already spent years in jail fighting extradition, both in the Occupied Six Counties and Twenty Six County State, he is now fighting the third attempt to extradite him.

This past year saw DD Mc Loughlin extradited from the 26 county state, luckily for DD luckily for him the case fell when the judge criticized the 26 county police for “aggressive, oppressive, hectoring and bullying” when interviewing the main witness against DD.

This is not the first time in recent years that someone extradited from the Twenty Six Counties had had his trial collapse, Ryan McKenna was freed in 2014 after being extradited from the Twenty Six Counties. These two cases show the ease at which the Twenty Six county state will extradite Irish Republicans, it is incumbent on all Republicans to work together on the issues of; special laws for Republicans, SCC, Extradition, and Internment

From Henry Joy McCraken, through Wolfe Tone, Emmet and on to Parnell, many of the early leaders of Irish nationalism and Republicanism were of the protestant faith, they knew that for the people of Ireland to prosper it had to become a sovereign, independent country.

This quote from Wolfe Tone sums it up best; to break the connection with England the never failing source of all our political evils. England introduced sectarianism into Irish politics, they nurtured it, they fostered it and they encourage it to today. From the gerrymandering of constituencies to the counting of votes in terms of pro-unionist/loyalist votes being Protestant votes and pro nationalist/Republican votes being Catholic votes. As Republicans we should play no part in sectarianism, racism or sexism.

We should judge people on their character and nothing else. Our goal must be as Tone said “To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter”.

Now is the time to engage with people on the basis of a future within a United Ireland being better for all the people of Ireland. Looking at the exit of the UK from the EU it is clear that the politicians of Westminster have no idea what they are doing, but we can be sure of one thing;- whether it is, no deal, a bad deal or a good deal, the politicians there will look after England first, Wales and Scotland second and third.  Last will be the Six Counties of Ireland, for they know that as sure as the sun sets, Ireland will be united. Now is the time for those who want what is best for themselves and the people of Ireland to engage in the debate for a United Ireland.

It is interesting to see Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson indicate that, the realisation is there that a United Ireland is on the horizon. As strange as it may sound, now is the time for our Unionist brothers and sisters to engage in dialogue with Republicans, not the so-called republicans of Leinster house, but those who have consistently argued for the abolition of that den of greed, we have argued for a socialist Ireland, an Ireland of equals. For myself and those of Sinn Féin Poblachtach, we have being arguing for a federal Ireland, an Éire Nua. This is not, as G Adams and his cronies have said “a sop to Protestants” but is a good basis for a way forward with equality, with fairness. Those who developed it had only the best of hope for a United Ireland, they were neither sectarian nor greedy unlike to politicians that now infest the administrations in both states.  It may not be a panacea for all our troubles, but it is a sound basis towards a peaceful Ireland and I know our leadership will be only too happy to engage in discussions around this.

As I look at the two states we have today here in Ireland, it is clear that it bears no semblance to the Ireland our hunger strikers died for, nor the Ireland that the men, women and children of 1916 died for. All died for a United Ireland, a Socialist Ireland and an Ireland of equals. The two states we have today bear no resemblance to what was envisioned. James Connolly. He was right when he said “if you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin castle, unless you set bout organizing a socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain”

While both states differ slightly the following is true of one or both of them;

There is no money for the poor— but plenty for the political wages

There is no money for social housing—but tax cuts for builders and developers

Schools lack resources and funding—– but travel junkets can be funded

Hospitals have ever-growing waiting lists—but political expenses and perks continue.

A chairde, I have lost the figures, but the politicians of Stormont have not sat and worked since 2017 yet they still collect wages, this to me is theft. It is excused because the political elite can excuse it.

Leinster House passed a 5000 euro pay rise for themselves in the last budget, yet delayed a 5 euro rise for pensioners for several months.

Not since the Great Hunger of the 1840’s have so many been dispossessed of their homes by absentee landlords (in the guise of vulture/pension funds) and all eagerly aided by an ever more vicious police. We have a whole generation now who will grow up and not know what it is like to have a home, they will be moving from B+B to B+B, from one temporary hostel to another. They cannot build proper friendships or even develop proper family relationships due to lack of kitchen facilities, play areas etc. As the situation increases in desperation the political class pays little more than lip-service to those suffering. Empty statements from many calling for rent control or increased house building are nothing more that window-dressing for their collective indifference to the plight of the ordinary person.

This past year has seen an increase in attacks on Republicanism, an increase in the normalization of the occupation and attempts to encourage engagement in talks on entering the Commonwealth. In Lurgan this Easter a peaceful assembly was attacked by the unreformed police now known as the PSNI, there was no show of Republican strength, no parade and no controversy. Just a simple commemoration. The one issue was that these Republicans continually refuse to ask permission to commemorate our patriot dead,

After this attack on a small commemoration, the police felt brave enough to threaten the same for a planned Easter commemoration in Derry, this time however they had fore-warned the Republicans there. A strong and organised resistance was put up, those commemorating and parading were protected. I commend all who ensured that this event was held and I comment those in Lurgan who refuse to be intimidated off our streets.

In the past few weeks the Twenty Six county administration have indicated that the new commissioner of their police will be Drew Harris of the RUC.  In less than 100 years of partial independence the state has reintroduced British led policing in the state. This man is linked through his positions within both the Six County police and MI5 to the murders of the innocent in the six Counties, shoot to kill and in the collusion to cover-up state involvement in the murders of people in Dublin and Monaghan. For any self-respecting state to put a senior member of another states secret services is unheard of.  It is clear that the present day FG party is only following in the footsteps of Collins, when he too orders from London to open up on Republicans who were defending the Republic.

At Easter this year in Derry I said it was not a Republican act to enter Leinster house and it was an act of betrayal to actually administer British administration in the Occupied Six Counties yet claim to be a Republican. Well a chairde that betrayal was confirmed when the leader of the Provisionals suggested a United Ireland within the commonwealth was an option her party would consider. The years of struggle were not about unity, we had that right up to 1922. The struggle is for sovereignty, for independence.

The continual trips from members of British aristocracy is being propagated as “the maturing as a nation” and just “normalization of relations”, there can be no normalization for as long as an abnormal border crosses Ireland, and Ireland matured when we proclaimed our independence under arms in 1916. When our country in once again united, when it is sovereign and when outside interferences in our internal affairs cease, then and then alone will there be normal relations between these islands.

Comrades, we cannot rely on the EU to protect against a border here in Ireland, we need only look at the events in Catalonia, when the people tried to exercised their democratic right to vote only to have it crushed by the Spanish state, the EU have no real interest in democracy, it is an imperialist construct and has a selfish interest. The EU now openly backs a fascist (if not Nazi) government in the Ukraine.

It is incumbent on Republicans to ensure no border, no one else will do this.”

An Phoblacht Abú


 



Ranganna:Chuimhneacháin / Commemorative

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